Monte Carlo 2013 recap

This is a guest post by Ruari Grant. This post was also published on the AndBeThere blog. You can connect to us via:

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As always, I would like to thanks Tennis-Buzz.

Following Nadal’s unexpected win in Indian Wells a month ago, as I said here it was beginning to look ominous for the rest of the tour regarding the fast-approaching clay court season. However on Sunday Djokovic beat him 6-2 7-6 in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters. It was the first time the Spaniard had lost there since 2003, having since racked up eight straight titles.

After coming into the tournament with a slight injury cloud over him, Djokovic very much played his way into form, dropping sets in his first two matches, before dispatching the tournament’s giant killer Fabio Fognini in the semis. The first set against Nadal showed just why Djokovic must surely have at least one Roland Garros crown in him at some point. He raced to a 5-0 lead, effortlessly hitting winners left right and centre, in a way that no one has ever done against Nadal on clay before. Indeed the Serb said himself after the match that it was the best he is capable of playing on the surface.

The second was a much tighter affair, with Nadal twice going up a break, but not managing to consolidate, and once it reached the breaker it had that sense of inevitability as Djokovic stepped it up a gear. The victory was really big news for both camps. As far as Nadal is concerned, he basically owns this tournament. No one has had a look in for almost a decade, but as he keeps stressing, the streak couldn’t go on forever so it’s not a disaster! For Djokovic, it was a big one ticked off the list – he’s lived in Monaco for a fair few years now so of course his home tournament has been high up in his priorities for a while. It also means that he only has to win the masters in Cincinnati to complete the set of masters 1000 titles.

Where from here…

Well obviously it seems easy to say but these two are clearly the men to beat on the clay. We won’t see what Federer is looking like until Madrid in a couple of weeks’ time when he kicks off his campaign, and Murray looked completely off the pace in his 6-1 6-2 defeat to Stan Wawrinka. Nadal is also playing Barcellona this week, and so with and extra week of match practice I’d say that he should be more competitive come the next meeting between the two of them. However with their current rankings that doesn’t mean that will necessarily be in a final. Regardless, if they did meet in a semi, surely the winner of that match would go on and take the tournament.

I’m backing Djokovic for another win in Madrid. At altitude, it’s never been prime hunting ground for Nadal given the fast clay courts there, though he has won there in the past. However it could also suit a relative outsider with a big game like Del Potro or Berdych if they get on a run. Come Rome, I’m seeing Nadal back to his absolute best, and I think he will take the win there before moving on to target yet more history at the French Open. Lets just hope they will be in opposite sides of the draw there!

The ones to watch out for…

Fabio Fognini was the surprise package in Monaco. Beating Berdych and Gasquet back to back without dropping a set was massively impressive and just highlights the hand skills the Italian possesses. If he can just stop moving so lazily about the court he court really challenge the best on this surface.

Richard Gasquet is arguably at his best on the clay and despite that shock loss to Fognini, he is having a good year. Without the burden of pressure and expectation from which he suffered earlier in his career, I do expect him to go deep into one of these tournaments soon and possibly overtake compatriot Tsonga as world number 8.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga is himself improving on the red dirt though. A couple of years ago I would’ve laughed at the prospect of him reaching the semis in Monaco, but he came back from a set down to defeat Wawrinka in the quarters which was particularly impressive. These two have had their fair share of battles in the past, but you would generally class the Swiss as the superior clay courter, backed up by that win over Murray. But however impressive Tsonga was there, he was just as disappointing against Nadal in the semis, failing to trouble the Spaniard at all. Still if he gets a good draw on the quick courts of Madrid he could do some damage.

Grigor Dimitrov had the beating of Nadal in the quarters in Monaco. I see him as a super-hybrid-cross with Federer’s shots and Djokovic’s movement and flexibility. At times he was just unplayable, and of course, he plays that variety of tennis which the crowd love, so once he can just get to the next level of consistency and hold it together mentally, he could start beating the big dogs.

This is a guest post by Ruari Grant. This post was also published on the AndBeThere blog. You can connect to us via:

Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Our Website | Flickr | Via Email

I would like to thank Tennis-Buzz for this opportunity.

Well the first Masters 1000 event of the 2013 season is now well and truly underway, with all the seeds having completed their first matches. All 32 seeds receive a bye in the first round, so here I plan to give you a succinct run-down of round 2.

Top Half

Novak Djokovic had a bit of a lapse of concentration in his 6-0 5-7 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini. Having taken the opener without any resistance whatsoever, one bad game from the number one seed, and some great slow-court tennis from the Italian saw it go to a decider. However Djokovic said that he never really felt in trouble, given the great run of form he’s currently on and the confidence that goes with it. Next up for him is Dimitrov, a straight sets winner, who could provide quite a spectacle, though he’s unlikely to pose any real threat.

In a few days’ time the winner of that one will face the victor of the Querrey-Matesevic clash. Matesevic is a name to watch out for this season, and he upset 14th seed Monaco 7-5 6-0 in R2. This could be fairly close, though I’d expect the more experienced and big serving American to come through for a presumed rematch of his win over Djokovic in Paris last Autumn.

Further down, Cilic came through in two against Ramos, and he will play Raonic who was granted a walkover by Llodra. This could be interesting. Cilic is the more experienced, though Raonic is the more upcoming player at the moment. Though they’re both big servers, I think the slower courts will favour Cilic, as he probably has a slightly more solid defensive game than the all-offensive Canadian.

Mardy Fish continued his comeback to the tour with  6-3 3-6 6-4 win over countryman Bobby Reynolds. This tournament has been a happy hunting ground for him in the past, so he will be hoping for a couple more wins. Trying to prevent that will be Tsonga – a 7-6 6-4 winner over James Blake. A very tight affair where the American held 3 set points in the opener, Tsonga did well to grit out the win, and that should give him confidence going forward. He shouldn’t struggle too much with Fish on current form.

Andy Murray overcame a rocky start, eventually rallying to beat Donskoy 5-7 6-2 6-2. It was the Scot’s first match since the Aussie Open so he was bound to be a bit rusty. He’s said that he’s expecting peak fitness over the next couple of weeks given the training time he’s recently put in in Miami. So after a couple of matches to ease himself into the tournament he should be quite a force. The slow surface should also suit him. Next up is Yen-Hsun Lu.

Carlos Berlocq caused an upset, overcoming the 22nd seed Dolgopolov 6-3 6-7 6-3. A great win for the Argentine, it’s just another appalling loss for the talented Ukrainian. He really needs to look at where his game is at and start considering where he wants to take it – the regularity of his bad performances represent the only consistency in his game. Berlocq will next have his work cut out against Nishikori, one of the brightest young hopes on the tour at the moment.

One of the best prospects for the next round is the Almagro-Haas matchup. Both came through in two sets against unseeded opponents, and both have been playing at a high level of late. I’m picking a slight upset here, with Haas to come through – he really is having a late-career resurgence!

At the bottom of the top half, Del Potro was very impressive against a dangerman in Davydenko. The Russian had beaten him comfortably in the championship match at the World Tour Finals a couple of years back so the Argentine was aware of the possible risk. But Davydenko was never given a look in. Next up is Bjorn Phau – for me the fastest man in tennis. He plays great exhibition stuff, though won’t have the necessary firepower to hurt the seventh seed.

Juan Martin Del Potro

Bottom Half

At the very bottom of the draw, the number 2 seed (he could lose his number 2 ranking if he fails to defend his Indian Wells crown this week) is Federer. He came through very comfortably 6-2 6-3 against a dangerous opponent in Istomin. After two poor losses in recent weeks, he’s in need of confidence boosting wins like this ahead of a possible quarter-final showdown with Nadal. In R2 he faces Dodig; an opponent you wouldn’t expect to cause too much trouble. 

My pick of Saturday’s matches was Lleyton Hewitt‘s gritty comeback, beating last year’s finalist John Isner 6-7 6-3 6-4. The veteran Aussie has slipped in the rankings, so big wins like this are more important than ever to him, as he looks to extend his injury plagued career as long as he can. He faces Wawrinka in a potentially intriguing clash in the next round.

Ernests Gulbis continued his fine run of form, backing up last week’s win in Delray Beach, with a devastating 6-2 6-0 win over the struggling Serb Janko Tipsaravic. Though still in the top 10, he has had a distinctly average year since the Aussie Open, and is sure to see that ranking slip if he doesn’t change things soon. Gulbis on the other hand looks as if he may finally be putting a leash on that massive game; with a bit of reigning in, he should shoot up the rankings. His next opponent Seppi, will look to make very few errors – that type of opponent is a real test for the Latvian. 

One of the most noteworthy matches was Nadal‘s 7-6 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison. Though the American went up a break in the first, the Spaniard wasn’t about to let up, and powered through, recording his first win on hard courts in 12 months. He said that his movement still needs some attention, though he feels good and is happy to be at the tournament – potentially an ominous sign for his next round opponent, Leonardo Mayer!

The biggest upset thus far came in Kevin Anderson‘s 3-6 6-4 6-3 win over fourth seed Ferrer. The South-African seemed to have too much power for Ferrer, hitting winners-galore. The Spaniard doesn’t seem to have quite recovered fromt the routing Nadal gave him a week ago in the final of Acapulco. Anderson next faces Jarko Nieminen, who conceded just one game against fellow lefty Fernando Verdasco. A great win for the aging Fin, though Verdasco seriously needs to sit down and look at the direction his career is taking as a player with his innate ability shouldn’t be suffering these losses.

Kevin Anderson

The rest of the seeds in this half all came through fairly comfortably with the exception of Kohlschreiber who bowed out to Benoit Paire 6-4 6-2. The young flashy Frenchman will look to put on another show in the next round against countryman Simon; I reckon his metronomic style might just infuriate the youngster.

Gasquet was a straight sets winner over a potential hurdle in Bernard Tomic, and sets himself an interesting first time clash with Jerzy Janowicz. I pick Gasquet to come through, though it could be far from simple. Similarly, Berdych wasn’t troubled in his opener against Zverev, and goes on to probably beat Florian Mayer in round 3. I’m really hoping for a Berdych-Gasquet R4. If Gasquet comes to the party there could be some phenomenal shotmaking!

That’s pretty much the gist of the first few days’ action. Lots more promises to be coming our way though, so check back soon for more roundups, and special features on certain players!

Photos by Tennis Buzz (Del Potro, Roland Garros 2012 – Anderson, Bercy 2012)

David Ferrer vs Marcel Granollers

First match on Court Central was between Spaniards Ferrer and Granollers. The match started early (at 10.30) so I missed it. 6-1 6-3 for Ferrer who won the Valencia tournament last week.

Kevin Anderson vs Richard Gasquet

Big server Anderson against Richard Gasquet. As often with Gasquet, I got the feeling he only plays a few points, not the whole match and he has absolutely no game plan. A complete waste of talent.

Anderson wins first set at tiebreak:

Gasquet serves for the second set:

Match point:

Sam Querrey vs Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

8-0 in 28 minutes for Djokovic.
At that moment I just wanted this match to end as quickly as possible, but Querrey suddenly woke up, started to make some returns, kept the ball in the court. He somehow managed to win one game, two games, the second set and then the match! And well, let’s say Djokovic didn’t try a lot.

Djokovic serving for the first set:

Querrey serves for the second set:

Match point:

Sam Querrey’s interview after his victory:

Michael Llodra vs John Isner

Last year, Isner beat Wawrinka, Kunitsyn, Lopez and Ferrer on his way to the semifinals, where he held three match points before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. This year he lost to Michael Llodra in straight sets 6-4 7-6.
It was my first time watching one of his matches and probably (hopefully) the last time. The only thing he can do is to serve. He was totally unable to keep the ball in the court, and he’s ranked number 11… Spectators should be paid to watch him “playing”.

Who will win the 2012 BNP Paris Bercy Masters?

  • David Ferrer (43%, 9 Votes)
  • Other (19%, 4 Votes)
  • Roger Federer (14%, 3 Votes)
  • Novak Djokovic (10%, 2 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Juan Martin del Potro (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Milos Raonic (0%, 0 Votes)
  • John Isner (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 21

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That’s it for my Paris Bercy recap. I’ll be there back again next year.
If you’re interested in buying some tickets for Paris Bercy 2013, the tickets are already on sale with some exclusive offers until the 30th of November. All the details here.

The Olympics are over for the tennis players, and the ATP and WTA circuits move back to North America for the 2012 US Open Series.
This week, women play in Montreal, whereas men play in Toronto.

Thanks to Rick for his pics of last year’s Montreal tournament. Enjoy!

Nicolas Almagro:

Ernests Gulbis:

Mardy Fish:

Nicolas Almagro:

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Women’s Singles

Gold: Serena Williams (USA)
Silver: Maria Sharapova (Russia)
Bronze: Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)

Women’s Doubles

Gold: Serena Williams and Venus Williams (USA)
Silver: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic)
Bronze: Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova (Russia)

Mixed Doubles

Gold: Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi (Belarus)
Silver: Laura Robson and Andy Murray (GB)
Bronze: Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan (USA)

Men’s Singles

Gold: Andy Murray (GB)
Silver: Roger Federer (Switzerland)
Bronze: Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina)

Men’s Doubles

Gold: Bob and Mike Bryan (USA)
Silver: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra (France)
Bronze: Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau (France)

Photos: Getty Images, Reuters